In the bustling corridors of St Helier Hospital, Stella, our four-year-old therapy dog, has been making a great difference to the lives of patients and staff for the past year.
With her wagging tail and friendly demeanour, Stella started her mission in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), one of her favourite places to visit in the hospital. Stella was guided by her owner, Elena Mongiovi, who has an early year practitioner background and has been doing outreach work in the community for years.
As Stella entered the cubicle, Alison, who spent almost three weeks in ICU after an operation, lit up with joy. Stella approached Alison with an air of gentleness and affection. While Elena was chatting with Alison, Stella showered her with kisses and hugs, Alison’s face flushed with excitement. The presence of this little furry friend gave Alison a much-needed boost during her recovery journey.
Kissing goodbye to Alison, Stella made her way to Helena. The 19-year-old, who had been in ICU for a month after a chest infection, was initially engrossed in her iPad. When Stella made her entrance, everything changed. Helena’s face brightened, and a glimmer of happiness sparkled in her eyes. With Elena’s support, Helena fed Stella some food, and her hands clapping in encouragement lifted both her spirits and Stella’s.
Elena takes Stella to St Helier every week. Besides ICU, she also visits children in Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children and has become an integral part of St Helier. Through her visits, she brings immeasurable joy and comfort to patients like Alison and Helena, who find solace in her gentle presence. She has become a celebrity around the hospital. Strolling through the corridors, she attracts the attention of hospital staff and visitors who eagerly greet her with warm smiles and open arms. Stella’s popularity knows no bounds, and her ability to brighten the day of both patients and staff is truly remarkable.
‘’Stella means star in Italian and she truly is our little star,’’ says ICU Senior Sister Jessica Gregory. Stella is a distraction from patients being unwell. She is so calming and takes their mind off being in hospital.’’ According to Jessica, intensive care is a stressful environment and Stella helps to give staff a little boost as well.
Elena recognised the impact Stella had on the hospital environment. ‘’Stella’s visits bring smiles, energy and hope when everyone in the hospital is always busy and exhausted,’’ she said.
‘’Working in the hospital can be emotionally and physically draining, especially during challenging times like the pandemic. The presence of therapy dogs brings smiles and a much-needed boost of energy to the dedicated staff.’’
She added: “The time and effort spent on Stella’s training have been truly worthwhile as the positive impact she brings to the hospital community is immeasurable.’’